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3 Applications of Powder Flow Analysis

Understanding powder flowability is complicated by the common misconception that the flow properties of any powder product exist somewhere on a linear spectrum, i.e. between nonflowing and free-flowing. In fact, powder flow is a dynamic and multivariable characteristic. It is dependent upon myriad factors including particle size and size distribution, particle morphology, and powder composition. Yet even these are fairly simple properties that cannot wholly explain how a given bulk powder will react to mechanical stimuli of one form or another.

Powder flow analysis is commonly employed to determine the responses of powders to varying conditions, offering quantitative insights into their flowability in static states and various dynamic phases. This requires bulk samples to be subjected to simulated end-use or manufacturing conditions to ensure that flowability measurements are relevant for product optimization.

This is complicated further by the many mechanisms that can cause solid particles to undergo size changes or phase transitions. Even extremely fine and uniform powder particles can agglomerate in a process known as caking, or granulation, which can result in undesirable end-product properties. Powder flow analysis is routinely carried out to assess the agglomerating potential of intermediate powders prior to industrial handling.

Another core competency of powder flow analysis is the ability to determine the force required to fluidize a powder and separate its particles, enforcing a quasi-liquid state. Fluidization is often used to assist powder flow in high-throughput feeds handling very fine materials. It is also a critical characteristic for granulation processes and mixing via fluidized bed technologies.

Powder flow analysis can provide both qualitative and quantitative information regarding each of these critical characteristics, improving powder handling and processing in a broad range of application areas.

Powder Flow Analysis for Catalysis

Catalytic research occupies a broad cross-section of potential end-products from biological washing powders to automotive manufacturing. Typically, the performance of catalytic powders is proportional to net surface area, which can be impaired by granulation and caking during transfer, storage, or application. Powder flow analysis of catalysts can be used to eliminate numerous instability phenomena from the manufacturing chain.

Fluidization measurements of catalysts are also integral as the intermediate products are often handled as very fine, fluidized powders that may be spray-coated upon a substrate and electrostatically bound to it. This requires a robust understanding of the powder’s behavior in a pseudo-liquidized state to ensure that coatings are uniform and highly-functional.

Food Research and Powder Flow Analysis

Powder flow analysis in food research has a plethora of applications, offering insights into the optimal structural materials and profiles for storage and transfer vessels. The flow properties of powders in response to gravity varies depending on the settling behavior of the material, the levels of agitation caused by feeds and conveyors, and the method used for dosing individual volumes from the bulk material.

It is also important to measure the avalanche angles of bulk powders to optimize mixing and blending and reduce the formation of unwanted heterogeneities due to particle agglomeration and poor mixing.

Powder Flow Analysis in Cosmetics Manufacturing

Cosmetic powders are complicated products comprising a matrix of materials that must combine adequately to impart good textural and aesthetic qualities after blending, storage, and application. Powder flow analysis is used as a supplementary technique to determine the shelf-life of cosmetic powders based on their long-term stability. Primarily, this is achieved using a cumulative power spectrum, or granulation spectrum, which measures flow properties as a function of time and varied rotational speeds.

Meritics: Powder Flow Analysis

Meritics is the UK’s leading supplier of analytical instruments for performing particle analysis and quality control of industrial or commercial intermediates and end-products. We offer a range of instruments suitable for performing powder flow analysis and illuminating the complex yet critical behavior of powders at various stages.

If you would like any more information about performing powder flow analysis with Meritics, please do not hesitate to contact us directly.